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Best expert advice on growing summer bedding plants

Mixed colourful summer bedding plants

Vibrant, versatile and enormously varied, summer bedding plants are guaranteed to brighten up your garden. With just a bit of planning and care, they can instantly transform your beds, borders, pots and hanging baskets into a riot of colour that lasts long into autumn. 

Here, we’ve selected the best expert tips and tricks from our favourite gardening bloggers to help you get the gorgeous summer garden of your dreams!


Best advice on which bedding plants to choose

Blue, red and white verbena flowers
Striking verbena plants are perfect for window boxes and borders
Image: Verbena ‘Union Jack Mixed’ from Suttons/©Thompson & Morgan

Equally suited to borders and containers, bedding plants are the perfect way “to create a temporary floral and/or foliage planting scheme,” explains garden designer Marie Shallcross of Plews Garden Design. Traditionally changed twice a year for summer and winter, read Marie’s article for tips on how to create a 21st century bedding plant design that’s far from old-fashioned! 

Over at The Sunday Gardener, Carol Bartlett reminds us that it’s crucial not to plant your bedding out too early as frost can kill them and “cold weather will make them sulk.” Let them get established in a sheltered spot or greenhouse, and they’ll flourish when the weather warms up. Read the full article for more tips, including Carol’s recommendations for the easiest summer bedding plants to grow.

One of the best things about summer bedding plants is their bright versatility, as nature lover Wee Em proves with this gorgeous multi-coloured display of flowers in her large, raised planter. Em clearly loves ringing the changes with these brightly-coloured blooms and is looking forward “to doing something just as nice but different next year”. Follow her over at @scottishgardener_weeem for inspiration.

Interior designer Sarah from @behindthedoorat24 proves that summer bedding plants work perfectly with ultra-modern garden design. She has even built dedicated ‘bedding walls’ around her contemporary outdoor seating area to make the most of these brightly-coloured blooms. Visit her on Insta to see the sensational display and find out what she plans to do for winter.

Best advice on using bedding plants in beds and borders

Yellow, brown and red rudbeckia flowers
Rudbeckias add height, structure and colour to beds and borders
Image: Rudbeckia ‘All Sorts Mixed’ summer bedding plants from Suttons/©Thompson & Morgan

If you’ve bought plug plants for your borders, it’s a good idea to let them grow on in small pots before planting them outside. As Ray of Gardening for Beginners explains, this is a good way to “get ahead of the game” and ensure your bedding plants are in great condition when the time comes to plant them out. His video on how to pot up plug plants clearly demonstrates this quick and easy method – give it a watch!

Over at Gardening at 58 North, Simon’s spring plants have died back so it’s time to clear the beds and prepare the soil for summer bedding plants. He incorporates organic matter as he turns the soil over, which helps it to retain moisture, and also adds some “slow-release blood, fish and bone that will give the new plants plenty of feed, so they can grow quite strong and put on a good display for this year.” Watch his video on planting up summer bedding to see how he uses African marigolds, alyssum and other flowers to create a varied and interesting display.

Summer bedding plants are a quick way to turn your garden into a colourful haven. Over at @leebyng, professional gardener Lee puts “months of planning and organising” into transforming a client’s beds and borders but, for the lucky garden owner, the effect is almost instant! Check out the wonderful before and after garden photos on Instagram.

Isle of Wight-based gardener Jordan Aspinall’s Union flag summer bedding scheme is proof that a bit of planning can yield spectacular results! Flip through his photos over at @jordan.aspinall to see how he transformed the beds at Osborne House with begonia and heliotrope. Jordan has a real eye for composition, as you can see from this short video of a round bedding plant display featuring Salvia ‘Victoria Blue’. He says that going easy on the pruning “has allowed it to look really lush like a big cushion”. Beautiful!

If you want to see how impressive summer bedding plants can be, check out the colourful borders at Jesus College, Cambridge shared by gardener Jo Ward on her personal Instagram account. She notes that this dramatic display is “reminiscent of the Victorian summer bedding at Hampton Court Palace” and is still going strong well into September! And Jo should know. With another hat on, she’s the cat-loving @hamptoncourtpalacegardener!

Best advice on using bedding plants in containers and hanging baskets

Orange and apricot begonia flowers
These begonias have a trailing habit, which makes them perfect for hanging baskets
Image: Begonia x tuberhybrida ‘Apricot Shades Improved’ F1 Hybrid from Suttons

Bedding plants have delicate roots, so it’s important to treat them with care. In their Shropshire garden, Elliot and Matt like to “plant the same variety en masse” to create a really strong look in their containers. Their ornate urn filled with bright pink geraniums is sure to look fantastic once the flowers appear. Watch the full video on how to plant summer bedding plants in pots for tips.

Plug plants are a great way to give your garden an instant lift, especially if you don’t have the time (or space) to grow summer flowers from seed. Marie of Plews Garden Design plants them in hanging baskets and containers for “a spectacular floral bedding display at little cost”. She recommends two different ways of ‘hardening off’ to acclimatise your young plants – read her article on plug plants for containers and see which method works best for you.

John Moore of Pyracantha plants a mixture of upright and trailing plants in hanging baskets to create a vibrant, multi-level effect. Among the many recommendations featured in his article on the best plants for hanging baskets are petunias, which “will flower right the way through summer” if you deadhead them, and Bacopa, which “produces masses of tiny star-shaped flowers”. Both are great options for full and luxurious-looking baskets.

If you’ve been inspired to plant your own colourful hanging baskets, pick up some practical tips in this helpful hanging basket video from Suttons. Our horticultural expert demonstrates how simple it is to plant up a plastic easy-fill basket. The removable side ‘gates’ allow you to get a really full and spectacular display that will “lift your spirits every time you step outside”

Best advice on how to care for bedding plants

White and purple petunias
With just a bit of maintenance, summer bedding plants will produce flowers again and again
Image: Petunia ‘Giant Collection’ from Suttons/©Thompson & Morgan

It’s important to take care of your summer bedding plants if you want a long flowering period. Elaine of The 3 Growbags recommends pinching out the dominant (or apical) bud on the central stem. You may have to “harden your heart a little” to do it, but removing this central bud prompts the plant to divert energy to its side shoots, giving you a “robust, bushy plant which will flower right through the summer”. Check out Elaine’s article to see the results.

Are your summer bedding plants looking a bit tired after flowering? It’s probably because they’re putting all their energy into seeds. Stephen from The Adventurous Allotmenteer recommends “refreshing” the plants by deadheading and cutting back to new growth, which not only encourages the plants to flower again but also creates a bushier, healthier plant. Watch his video on bedding plant maintenance to find out what to look for when cutting back.

Ryan behind @scottish_newbuild_garden is also an advocate of deadheading to encourage more flowers, and he loves petunias for their ability to “bring colour to the garden throughout summer”. His combination of regular deadheading and feeding to give the plants an “extra boost” has brought him great success, as you can see from these photos showing his gorgeous petunias out in force!

Don’t worry if your plants have already started to set seed – Simon of Gardening at 58 North demonstrates several ways to make your summer bedding plants bloom again. One method is to carefully remove all the seed heads, which will encourage further flower production without taking away too much of the structure of the plant. For a quicker fix that’s “quite drastic but it’s best for plants which have really gone over”, Simon recommends cutting back to the larger leaves and then feeding the plant – watch his video to find out which feed is best for flowers and foliage.

Now that our experts have shown you how easy it is to liven up your garden or patio with summer bedding plants, we hope you’ve been inspired to give it a go! Take a look at our extensive selection of bedding plants to find popular options, colour-themed collections and autumn-winter bedding plants to take you through the coldest months of the year.

Image: Nurseryman’s Choice Summer Favourites from Suttons/©Thompson & Morgan

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